I was so fortunate to be able to attend the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators Conference, Let Us Play, in Orlando with Kirsty DePree this February.
When the keynote speaker, Jaco J. Hamman, the author of A Play-Full Life, Slowing Down & Seeking Peace, began to speak, I knew it was much deeper than just getting together and playing games.
He talked about how important Play is in our everyday lives. In our time alone, in our relationships with loved ones, in our roles as grown-ups to children, in our profession, and our relationship with God. Not play, in the way of teasing, or pranking others, but Play as in giving space to a moment – when maybe your natural reaction is to critique it or control it. Instead, to just let go and let the Holy Spirit work and surprise you.
The opponents to Play, he told us, are criticism, control, compulsion, conflict, and consumption. At work, with friends, with yourself. But he challenged us to think what would happen if we replaced all of those with space, and filled that space with Play? We’d experience creativity. And boundlessness. And slowness. And transcendence.
A week after our conference, I flew to my alma mater, Christopher Newport University, to give a playwriting lecture. And (like a good CYF Director) I made sure to book my flight early enough on Sunday morning to arrive here at Marble in time for Confirmation Class.
I had planned on teaching the class, The Bible in 45 Minutes, which I had learned at the Conference. It included over 75 props. So, as soon as I got on the plane, I pulled out my materials to prepare. My goal was to cram it and memorize it as fast as I could. Because I had waited to the last moment, I immediately experienced self-criticism and control. Then I thought about what I had learned. So, I slowly read through the lesson just once, let go of all the props, and let go of trying to be so perfect.
Then I scooted up against the window of the plane. It was the clearest day I had ever seen on a flight. Small puffs of white clouds slowly gathered into one large one until I could no longer see the Earth below. I was about to close the blind when my eye caught something really cool. I could see the shadow of the plane on the clouds. And because it was so bright, I put my sunglasses on. When I did, I could see a rainbow in a perfect circle around the shadow of the plane. I took off my sunglasses and it disappeared. I put them back on, and it appeared again. I followed it all the way home. And when we descended through the clouds, I saw New York City. My home. And I was moved.
I had experienced the awesome power of Play.